New Liberal Party (New Zealand)

Last updated
New Liberal Party of New Zealand
Dissolved1908;110 years ago (1908)
Split from Liberal Party
Ideology Social liberalism
Political position Centre-left

The New Liberal Party of New Zealand was a splinter group of the original Liberal Party. It was formed at a meeting in the Christchurch suburb of Papanui in June 1905 [1] [2] by two Liberal-aligned independents who sought a more "progressive" policy than that followed by the Liberal leader, Richard Seddon, [3] and was similar to the Radical Party in 1896.

New Zealand Country in Oceania

New Zealand is a sovereign island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. The country geographically comprises two main landmasses—the North Island, and the South Island —and around 600 smaller islands. New Zealand is situated some 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and roughly 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific island areas of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. Because of its remoteness, it was one of the last lands to be settled by humans. During its long period of isolation, New Zealand developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life. The country's varied topography and its sharp mountain peaks, such as the Southern Alps, owe much to the tectonic uplift of land and volcanic eruptions. New Zealand's capital city is Wellington, while its most populous city is Auckland.

The New Zealand Liberal Party was the first organised political party in New Zealand. It governed from 1891 until 1912. The Liberal strategy was to create a large class of small land-owning farmers who supported Liberal ideals, by buying large tracts of Māori land and selling it to small farmers on credit. The Liberal Government also established the basis of the later welfare state, with old age pensions, developed a system for settling industrial disputes, which was accepted by both employers and trade unions. In 1893 it extended voting rights to women, making New Zealand the first country in the world to enact universal female suffrage.

Richard Seddon 15th and longest-serving Prime Minister of New Zealand

Richard John Seddon was a New Zealand politician who served as the 15th Premier of New Zealand from 1893 until his death in office in 1906.


The "Voucher incident" caused a split in New Liberal Party as moderates distanced themselves from Fisher A Split in the New Liberal Party.jpg
The "Voucher incident" caused a split in New Liberal Party as moderates distanced themselves from Fisher

The New Liberal Party was launched by Harry Bedford and Francis Fisher, but attracted a number of other MPs as well. George Laurenson, Frederick Baume, Alexander Hogg, William Tanner, and William Barber, all dissident Liberal MPs, associated themselves with the party, and two independents who had formerly been aligned with the loose opposition block, Ewen Alison and Alfred Harding, also joined. Tommy Taylor, a radical independent with a reputation as a firebrand, became the New Liberal Party's leader. Some Liberal dissidents, however, refused to be involved in the new party - the most notable being John Millar, George Fowlds, and Robert McNab. Many critics of Seddon believed that the New Liberals risked splitting the liberal vote and allowing a conservative government.

Harry Bedford (politician) New Zealand politician

Harry Dodgshun Bedford was a New Zealand university academic and Member of Parliament for the City of Dunedin.

Francis Fisher New Zealand politician and tennis player

Francis "Frank" Marion Bates Fisher was a New Zealand Member of Parliament from Wellington. He was known as Rainbow Fisher for his frequent changes of political allegiance. He was also an internationally successful tennis player.

George Laurenson New Zealand politician

George Laurenson was a New Zealand Member of Parliament for Lyttelton in the South Island.

The New Liberal Party announced an intention to contest the 1905 elections, but there was debate as to the exact nature of the party. Some saw the New Liberals as being complementary to (and possibly even a part of) the Liberal Party, spurring it forward but not directly challenging it. Others saw the New Liberals as a completely independent group that would stand against and eventually supplant the original Liberals. As a result of this disagreement, the New Liberals never developed a party organisation outside Parliament, and did not institute block voting - the party consisted of little more than regular caucus meetings.

A caucus is a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party or movement. The term originated in the United States, but has spread to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Nepal. As the use of the term has been expanded, the exact definition has come to vary among political cultures.

The New Liberals suffered considerable damage from the so-called "voucher incident", [4] in which Francis Fisher alleged that Richard Seddon's son had been received payment from a government department for work he had not done. The allegations were disproven, and the New Liberals suffered a considerable public backlash. As Fisher had not consulted his colleagues before making the accusation, it also strained relations between party members. William Barber and Alexander Hogg sought rapproachment with Seddon, and others also appeared to distance themselves.

As the election approached, the New Liberal Party comprised only Bedford, Fisher, and Taylor. The party, which now considered itself fully separate from the Liberals, contested a number of seats, including those held by Liberal MPs. Of the party's three MPs, two were defeated Fisher was the only one to remain in Parliament. By the 1908 elections, the New Liberal Party was defunct, and Fisher was re-elected as an independent. He later joined the Reform Party, established in opposition to the Liberals.

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  1. "The New Liberal Party". The Star (8334). 5 June 1905. p. 3. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  2. "Tuesday, June 6, 1905". The Star (8335). 6 June 1905. p. 2. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  3. "A New Party". The Star , Issue 8335. 6 June 1905. p. 2. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
  4. "The Fisher Incident again". Thames Star,2 Volume XLII, Issue 10682. 10 August 1905. p. 2. Retrieved 13 August 2011.